I’m not a big Star Wars fan and I haven’t really enjoyed any Star Wars video game that I have played in the past. With that said, The Old Republic is without a doubt the most well designed MMORPG ever made and I’m enjoying my time with it so far.
After spending a good amount of time with the game, the overall detail and quality of the finished product is blindingly apparent to me. This isn’t another Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Aion, or even Rift. The Old Republic is a very noticeable step above them all in terms of how well made the game is. The surprising thing, however, is that The Old Republic is clearly better than World of Warcraft in terms of quality as well. Even if it doesn’t beat WoW in sales (though it could with Star Wars’ huge fanbase), it should still be regarded as the superior product.
So what makes this the best MMORPG out there? Maybe the fact that it plays like a suprising infusion of Mass Effect and World of Warcraft. You could honestly sit back and play this MMORPG as a single player RPG strictly because the narrative and story telling are both so exceptional. There is actually a main quest in this game, one that is centered around the exploits of your character. To enforce this, there are phased areas throughout the world where only your character will be visible. The entrances of these phased areas are marked with green holographic barrier-like walls that you can walk through. Upon passing through one, you will be phased out of the persistent world containing hundreds of other players and will exist solely on your own (there is no loading to accomplish this). What purpose do these areas serve? Well, phased areas mosly contain important quest NPCs that you’ve been directed to kill among other things. This is a huge improvement over other MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft because, in The Old Republic, a phased area belongs to you and you alone, so any quest NPC you have to kill in a phased area wil be killed by you – not other players. I’m sure many people have terrifying memories of having to fight over quest mobs in World of Warcraft, such as the infamous Hogger in Elwynn Forest. This is no longer an issue.
Interactions with NPCs are fully voiced and play out as they would in Dragon Age or Mass Effect, meaning there are moral responses for you to choose from when replying to NPCs. It’s a nice option to have which adds some much needed personality to our MMORPG characters for once. Because of this, my Jedi Knight is shaping up to be a very sympathetic guy who always wants to do the right thing for people. A lot of the moral choices I’m choosing are increasing my alignment and pushing me to the light side. Light side, you ask? Yes, there’s the light side and the dark side. Depending on how you play your character and how they respond to NPCs, their personality will develop and will inch towards either the light or dark side. Assist villagers and side with them on ethical issues and you will be pushed in the direction of the light side, but if you run around and choose the intimidating and rude dialogue options (which are quite likely to end up in the death of others around you) then expect to have your character slowly turn towards the dark side.
This all sounds a lot like a single player RPG, doesn’t it? That’s the best part, it’s not. At all. Instances (flashpoints) and raids (operations) are still around as well and are intensely story driven. When you’re not in phased areas for questing reasons, you’ll see plenty of other players running around completing their own quests, killing enemy mobs, and interacting with NPCs. The Old Republic contains everything that other MMORPGs do but beefs the experience up with the character development and narrative we’ve come to expect from single player RPGs. This really is a new level for RPGs. Yes the core gameplay is roughly the same, but the extra layer of single player RPG-esque goodness that Bioware has thrown into the formula has drastically improved how The Old Republic plays as an MMORPG.
As far as character structure goes, all of the usuals are in such as individual gear slots, the ability to pick up trade skills (which rely on your companions to create items rather than yourself), mounts to increase your overall speed, and quite a bit more.
Another exceedingly strong point has to be the game’s presentation. The sound effects are all superb, making the act of slicing apart bandits and syndicate criminals with a lightsabre more satisfying than it has ever been! The game’s voice actors are also very talented as well, but would you expect any game that features the revered Jennifer Hale to have bad voicing? I don’t think so. There’s also the graphics which aren’t going to make any systems work overtime to render anything, but the game still looks a lot better than any other MMO out there. Any lush and forested planet is proof enough of that.
I would have liked to spend more time writing this out, but this is an MMO and, in 2012, we all know what they’re about. Big time sinks that are all about leveling, questing, and raiding. The Old Republic just does everything a little better than the competition and, in the end, that is what matters the most.
+ Beautiful cities, beautiful planets, beautiful everything.
+ General MMORPG formulas are executed better than they are in any competing MMOs.
+ Top of the line voice work all across the board.
– Game can be very burdening if you have never played an MMO before.
– PvP could have been more developed.
– Singleplayer aspect may drive some away from cooperating with fellow players.